The UPEACE campus was not an option. Mudslides, damaging a purported 25% of Costa Rican infrastructure, smothered the curvilinear course leading to the campus in the clouds. I could not fathom a solution to this logistical nightmare. How do you bring together participants from five continents for a weeklong Skills for Nonprofit Leadership course in a country on the tail end of a state of emergency? Thankfully, I didn’t have to.
Excellent back up planning from the dynamic duo of Mohit Mukherjee and Alonso Munoz yielded a perfect alternative meeting option on the outskirts of San Jose. And so it began.
Beginning exercise: Size up the leaders in the room. First reaction? Awestruck, humbling delight.
As a student at UPEACE, I have the pleasure of feeling this every morning on campus. Luckily, the same feeling I have in academic classes transpired in my first day of classes with the Centre for Executive Education. In our first exercise, I learned that I was amongst strategic planners, grant writers, NGO directors, CSR experts, indicator geniuses, international consultants, and yes, even a budding jokester.
We spent the week learning as much from our fearless leader, Mohit, as we did from each other. Each participant came with stories richer than the next. Mary Anne spoke of her dream to bring a new educational paradigm to Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Philomena and the powerful team at Zamani targeted marginalized populations throughout Nigeria. Navneet’s brilliant leadership at United Sikhs allowed his organization to bring active participation to communities throughout the world. Leslie’s biologist background and humanitarian spirit found her a home in Chiquita Banana’s CSR programs. And these are just examples of the toolbox participants came with.
What we left with, of course, was so much more. Aside from wonderful collegial connections and a renewed spirit of camaraderie, the week married the practical and theoretical sides of non-profit leadership. Readings and discussions on topics as from managing in tough times to creating a team with edge shed light on what it means to be a leader on paper. The field trips to Café Britt, the National Institute of Biodiversity, and Habitat for Humanity filled us with insider looks at what exactly it means to be a leader in practice.